Without a doubt, content strategies are reaching new heights. Brands are not only becoming their own publishers, they are turning to stories to connect emotionally with their audiences. And as we saw from Part 1 of this series, emotions rule the day. So what kind of stories strike this emotional chord?
Creating H-E-A-R-T-F-E-L-T Emotions that Trigger Content Sharing
An examination of audience reach and engagement leads us to nine story techniques that show the most promise for connecting emotionally. And by connecting through emotions, research suggests that the brand benefits from:
- Greater awareness
- Quicker grasp of the brand message
- More lasting recall
- More powerful brand association
- Greater opportunity for sharing content
Humanitarian Acts Tug at the Heart of All Souls
When acts are performed by a person to protect life or human dignity, it rarely goes unnoticed. Like the Parable of the Good Samaritan, stories of personal sacrifice touch us all in a deep way. And when they are based on random acts of kindness or involve personal risk, it summons the compassion in many that long to see fresh glimpses of a benevolent world.
Arguably, it’s among the few story themes whose moral fits almost every culture. And because it follows a familiar story arc involving a hero, obstacles to overcome and a favorable transformation, stories of humanity seem to have universal appeal.
Some great stories of humanity involves brands that stepped up to resolve a food or water shortage. DuPont stirred the hearts of many in their film showing how their hybrid rice approach helped sustain rice production in Vietnam.
Similarly, Charity: Water’s role in solving a water crisis gained notoriety through the world. The founder, Scott Harrison’s “Water Changes Everything” story is featured in conferences around the world. The popularity of their videos are testimony to the strong emotions roused when we witness people surviving hardships.
Exhilaration Tops the List of Positive Emotions
A study of the emotions most likely to generate social video success rated ‘exhilaration’ number one. From scenes of jubilation or ecstasy, this form of emotional connection typically lasts longer and gets shared further than any other form of entertainment.
WestJet’s Christmas Miracle garnered over 200,000 ‘likes’ that brought tears of jubilation to the 35M+ watching unsuspected passengers getting their Christmas wish. The real-time giving turned a fairly unknown airline into a fun and caring brand.
Others like Red Bull and GoPro went the euphoria route with jumps from the sky that pounded the hearts of audiences sharing the exhilaration. On one notable jump, Felix Baumgartner broke the speed of sound in a 24 mile jump out of a stratospheric balloon that stunned millions. Stories like this inspire us to reach beyond our limits.
Astonishment Dazzles Us with the Spectacular
For centuries, we have marveled over athletes and magicians that entertain us with the “wow” factor. Our fascination with the extremes of beauty, craftsmanship and human potential can especially stir emotions when we take it in with all of our senses.
Rebelliousness Let’s Us Escape from Our Roots
A common story form used by brands today taps into our rebelliousness natures. Consider how this was done by The Pioneer Woman as a way to encourage other women to escape from their uneventful life styles. Others like the Mini Cooper appeal to those trying to stand out as they make the case that “normal is not amazing.”
In her book, The Fortune Cookie Principle, Bernadette Jiwa discusses the mystique of the Vespa and the joy of riding uninhibited with the wind in your hair. “To these people, the Vespa was a style statement that helped them to feel like they could escape their own working-class roots. (p. 105).”
Another technique involves an appeal to independent thinkers. This is done well by Virgin Atlantic as well as Nike in their Nike Girl Effect videos.
Tenderhearted Moments Bring Tears to the Eyes
One way to connect your audience through emotions is through tear jerking stories. Many stories went viral on YouTube when they featured sentimental memories in scenes of puppy love, cute romances and nostalgic connections.
Similarly, tears of pride can stir an emotional response. Tributes to our heritage can foster a community bond that runs deep and lasts long. Consider how New Zealand mustered up team spirit while reaching millions with their “Haka War Dance” and “This is Not a Jersey.”
Following 911, Budweiser’s commemoration to New York City led to YouTube video shares in the millions. Other stories, like Volkswagen, tap into these tenderhearted moments with their farewells to the good old days.
Feeling Savvy Fuels a Sudden Glory
Another way to provoke emotions with our brand stories is to poke fun of bureaucratic institutions. This often leads us to a feeling of ‘sudden glory’ as we bask in the sunlight of our superior choices.
Oftentimes, we revel in our removal of unnecessary middle men. Consider, for example, how Amazon makes an emotional connection with us by removing retailers who stand in the way of efficiency. Similarly, Nespresso, Warby Parker, Zappos, and Spanx all represent cases where audiences celebrate their “feeling savvy” from saving money.
One of the most viral of videos in this domain are the razor blade putdowns sponsored by Dollar Shave Club. One of their videos reached 13M views as an amateur acting host describes how their more sensible approach to purchasing razors avoids unnecessary overhead costs.
This “feeling savvy” story-line technique especially works well when aimed at the socially irresponsible or artificial foods. Brands like Bahen & Co. and Chobani tap into our desire for real natural ingredients. By reaching 2.6 million views on YouTube, Chobani’s Bear Game Day Commercial is a testimony to this story telling effect on our emotions.
Encouragement Comes from Witnessing Turnarounds
Audiences, for example, love to witness a remarkable turnaround. Consider how popular Marcus Sheridan became after turning around a near bankrupt swimming pool company to a world leading installer of fiber glass pools. His story resembles that of David and Clare Hieatt, who resurrected legendary jeans brand, Hiut Denim.
Legendary Sentiments Tap into Better Times
Following the saddened demise of Detroit’s car business, Chrysler’s YouTube video tribute to the Motorcity reached millions. Like other legendary stories, tributes like this rouse our emotions from a sense of pride and longing to return to better days. The NFL and Budweiser often use these story techniques as a way to rekindle our ties with the past.
Microsoft’s ‘Child of the 90s’ Internet Explorer ad is a sentimental trip back to when Gen Y’s appreciated a simpler, slower and more affordable life. The fact that it reached over 50 million views attests to the power of stories that are reminiscent of better days.
Triumphant Against all Odds Makes us Thankful
Everyone loves the success story of an overachiever. And like any story of triumph, we pull for an underdog or a handicapped individual to overcome their obstacles.
But we also experience a moment of truth when realizing our lives have been spared against all odds. Chevy and the American Cancer Society celebrated survivors of cancer as well as those who support them on the road to recover. Their 2014 Super Bowl commercial reached 1.7 million views in just three weeks.
Knowing this could happen to all of us, it is easy to live vicariously through the grateful hearts of the triumphant.
So what other brand storytelling techniques do you feel are effective in striking an emotional chord?
Stay tuned for “The Real Story Behind Brand Storytelling (Part III: HEARTFELT Elements)”